12 Myths Every Catholic Should Be Able To Answer
by Deal Hudson
#12. “People’s memories of their past lives prove that reincarnation is true...and that the Christian view of Heaven and Hell is not.”
As society becomes increasingly fascinated with the paranormal, we can expect to see claims of “past life memories” increase. Indeed, there are now organizations who will help take you through your previous lives using hypnosis.
While this may be convincing to some, it certainly isn’t to anyone familiar with the mechanics of hypnosis. Almost since the beginning, researchers have noted that patients in deep hypnosis frequently weave elaborate stories and memories, which later turn out to be utterly untrue. Reputable therapists are well aware of this phenomenon, and weigh carefully what the patient says under hypnosis.
Sadly, though, this isn’t the case with those interested in finding “proof” for reincarnation. Perhaps the greatest example of this carelessness is the famous Bridey Murphy case. If you’re not familiar with it, here’s a quick outline: In 1952, a Colorado housewife named Virginia Tighe was put under hypnosis. She began speaking in an Irish brogue and claimed to once have been a woman named Bridey Murphy who had lived in Cork, Ireland.
Her story was turned into a bestselling book, “The Search For Bridey Murphy,” and received much popular attention. Journalists combed Ireland, looking for any person or detail that might confirm the truth of this past-life regression. While nothing ever turned up, the case of Bridey Murphy continues to be used to buttress claims of reincarnation.
That’s a shame, since Virginia Tighe was exposed as a fraud decades ago. Consider: Virginia’s childhood friends recalled her active imagination, and ability to concoct complex stories (often centered around the imitation brogue she had perfected). Not only that, but she had a great fondness for Ireland, due in part to a friendship with an Irish woman whose maiden name was — you guessed it — Bridie.
What’s more, Virginia filled her hypnosis narratives with numerous elements from her own life (without revealing the parallels to the hypnotist). For example, Bridey described an “Uncle Plazz,” which eager researchers took to be a corruption of the Gaelic, “Uncle Blaise.” Their enthusiasm ran out though when it was discovered that Virginia had a childhood friend she called "Uncle Plazz."
When a hypnotized Virginia began dancing an Irish jig, researchers were astounded. How, after all, would a Colorado housewife have learned the jig? The mystery was solved when it was revealed that Virginia learned the dance as a child.
As the Bridey Murphy case shows, the claims of past-life regression are always more impressive than the reality. To this day, not a single verifiable example exists of a person being regressed to a former life. Certainly, many tales have been told under the control of a hypnotist, but nevertheless, evidence for reincarnation (like that for the Tooth Fairy) continues to elude us.
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